“You call that a fight? Give me the mic, I call in an air strike!” -Canibus
The mechanical mandible is back on the scene! Canibus returns from a three year hiatus with a new record for the hip hop underground. Melatonin Magik is the ninth solo album from Canibus, and many of the themes build from the ideas expressed in his previous release: For Whom The Beat Tolls
For those who aren’t familiar with the ways of Germaine, a brief explanation of the science behind the album name is necessary. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the pineal gland, and it regulates sleeping and waking cycles. The pineal gland is colloquially known as the “third eye” in Eastern philosophy. So Melatonin Magik is meant to wake us up to the things that are going on in our society. This album discusses many things in our contemporary predicament, and will require the listener to at least consider the theories laid out across menacing and militaristic beats. With 16 tracks, and features by up and coming rappers, underground mainstays and hip-hop veterans, there is much to differentiate this project from past ones.
An interesting addition to MM, is the enlistment of none other than Professor Griff from the legendary group Public Enemy on much of this project. While he doesn’t have verses on any track, he functions as Canibus hypeman, amplifying and edifying the points made in the beginning and end of the song, and providing an element of spoken word. Prof. Griff definitely gives this album a hard conscious element, and fills in the more ethereal assertions about our society that Canibus has been known to make.
Canibus is an emcee with a tendency to embrace cutting edge technological concepts and spit as if he memorizes scientific journals in his spare time. Be advised: should you decide to give this a listen, have two tabs open for Google and Dictionary.com. You will need it! Canibus is the closest thing we have in hip-hop to a science-fiction rapper. From the intro, Bis is dropping info through samples from environmentalists speaking on global warming. With CD cover art influence by The Matrix, and references to dystopian films like Surrogates, this element of the emcees content is still very much present. However, he manages to introduce another element which he began to touch on in FWTBT: political commentary.
Canibus occupies a unique space in the rap game; he is not technically categorized as a “conscious” rapper in the same vein of Talib Kweli or Immortal Technique, but has been making some strong political statements in his rhymes in the last couple of albums. On the title track “Melatonin Magik” he mentions the film An Inconvenient Truth and asserts that the media cannot be trusted. On “Post-Traumatic War Lab Stress” he drops lines like this:
We brainwashed, we can’t get these white collar stains off/
Poor Bernard Madoff, belongs in the graveyard/
The stock market trade off, doesn’t pay off/
We get laid off, the country spirals into chaos/
Wow. Nothing esoteric about that huh? The most overtly political track on this album are “Dead by Design” which features Prof. Griff prominently, with Bis rhyming about the machinations of the Illuminati, the nature of the internet, and the role of the media in misleading people. Pretty heavy stuff, but be prepared to duck if you dare sing along. Ha.
There were no weak features on this album, which is a relief nowadays! K-Solo does his thing, as did Copywrite. Newcomers Presto, Jaecyn Bayne, Blaq Poet, DZK, and Warbux check in with tight verses without trying to imitate Bis. On the track “Do it Live” which samples Bill O’Reilly flipping out on live television, is a classic everybody go in joint with not much in the way of teachable verses. So it’s not all conspiracy theories, Alex Jones shoutouts, and 2012 allusions.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the folks who get called out on this album. Eminem gets dissed on the track “Air Strike”(Pop Killer) and Bis took a stab at KRS-One on the suspiciously named “Kriminal Kindness” Lets see if either one of these turns into a full scale battle. Why Canibus waited over 6 years to respond to Em is anyone’s guess, but we will see what happens.
All in all, Melatonin Magik is a solid release, and gives his fans what they want to hear. Early in his career, I used to joke that Canibus was too nice for his own good. Unfortunately for the purposes of commercial success, that has been the case. There are folks who write him off as a battle rapper, or a “trekkie rapper”. There are reviews out there that only focus on the negative aspects and don’t deal with MM as is. This record has already been dismissed as 16 tracks of “battle rhymes”
This record will not convert any new fans, and it is not meant to. An artist who has been part of the hip-hop game for 14 years, with 9 albums, several mixtapes and features, he his comfortable with who he is, and has no intentions of branching out in an artificial manner if it means compromising his content. On the final track of the album, “Gold &Bronze Magik” he says that he rhymes for “the betterment of the culture”. With this record, there may not be an impact on the industry, but it is still a good record. Overall, I give Melatonin Magik a 4 out of 5.
P.S.- Mr. Propane- Where is my Horsemen album!?!